Interview with Carrie Jane Knowles, Author of Apricots in a Turkish Garden

Apricots in a Turkish GardenWhat is your book about?

Apricots in a Turkish Garden is a collection of ten short stories that focus on a moment in time when a character has an insight into their life and what has happened. And, that insight changes the character.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

I work hard to create “real” characters. I want the stories to be like a window or a mirror. Readers often tell me that they feel like I have written about them or their families.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I almost always start with a character rather than a situation.

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

Whenever I sit down to write I close my eyes and spend a few minutes thinking about the characters in my story, trying to imagine what they are going to do next.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

Writing and coaching writing is my day job. I have an office and I go to work everyday, Monday through Friday. I usually go to the gym before work, so I’m generally in the office ready to work by 10 in the morning and leave sometime between 5 and 6.

Writing today is also about promoting and some days the promotion end of the business takes over, as does the coaching, and I don’t get a great deal of time to write.

Ideally, I try to get at least one page of my own work written each day. I’m really happy if I manage to write two polished pages, i.e. pages that work and I don’t throw out the next day. Three would be a personal best!

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

Right now I’m working on two stories, one a short story and the other a novel I’ve been struggling with for the last two years. I’ve just had a real breakthrough with the novel, so hope to move ahead on that over the next couple of months.

The short story, like all short stories I write, will take several more months to draft then polish.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

A great character with an interesting dilemma/problem.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

I’m always on the lookout for character names. I keep note cards in my purse and jot names down whenever I discover a good one.

Names are really important to me. They have to fit the character, the time frame of the story, the location of the story, and the situation.

Do your characters ever take on a life of their own?

I hope so! When I create a character, I do my best to listen to them and to let them be who they want to be.

I have this theory I call the bad parent/good parent theory of writing. The bad parent is always telling the child what they should do and be when they grow up. The good parent encourages the child to grow up and be whoever and whatever they want to be.

I want to be the good parent.

Describe your writing in three words.

Character driven, surprising.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Apricots in a Turkish Garden is published by Second Wind Publishing. You can purchase it through Second Wind and also at Quail Ridge Books and through Amazon and Smashwords. You can learn more about me as well as my work on my website: carrieknowles.com

Rochelle Potkar, Author of The Arithmetic of Breasts and Other Stories

What is your book about?

This is a cluster of 7½ literary short stories exploring the romantic-sexual facets of its characters.

Narain who lusts for Munika, hypnotized by her bosom, and old Jaganlal who wants a favour from young Dia. Jackie who falls for Nic who in turn is falling for Lee, and a cosmetic surgeon who is changing much more than Sneha’s hairline, nose, lip and chin.

Shonali and Neel who are realizing that infidelity might not be such an easy thing, and a woman who walks a tight rope between temple tradition and sexual exploitation.

And, Sunil who meets the woman of his desires through an adult dating site.

How long did it take you to write your book?

I had written many short stories over the last five long years and it was time now to put some of ‘em together.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

It varies with every story. Sometimes, I have the whole idea down. Sometimes, a wisp. Sometimes, an epiphany so fleeting that if I blink, I miss it. Sometimes, what I have is the ending and then I have to go and find its beginning. So it’s all tricky.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

More than writing, the decision to collect these stories together and present them as a book changed something in my life. It’s the feeling that I have been in a closet for long and now I’ve come out.

How does your environment/upbringing colour your writing?

I am an Indian, living in India. I have travelled internationally but I’m basically rooted to one place, one space, one armchair by the window. This has provoked the frog in me to view outside the well. I do draw my characters from people around me but my stories are a little unhinged from my where I live. They seem floating, ready to hinge anywhere. So I can’t say my writing is very Indian or country-specific. That’s a good and a bad thing, I suppose.

What are you working on right now?

I have been working on a speculative novel for a while. 2 years. Only now it seems to settle down like dust. I hope to have it out by 2014.

What writer influenced you the most?

Murakami

What are your current writing goals and how do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

When writing I have to lose myself and become 0%. When marketing I need to be aware of selling whatever can be sold. So I have to become 100% aware of saleable things around me. This constant journey between invisibility and visibility is very funny, actually, swinging from one end of the continuum and back.

What are your future plans? What will you bring to the literary world besides more stories?

I see that there will always be rude, bad, hateful, distasteful people around and to balance them kind, soft, fine people in this unarticulated battle.

Art generates empathy and compassion.

But other than endlessly generating that in saleable products with price tags or preaching to the converted in echo chambers, I hope to someday tangibly touch another person’s life by doing something concrete for them with the little empathy and compassion I have. This can come through social work. And I am planning for it.

What genre are your books?

My writing alternates between speculative and literary. Speculative to me is when there is a lot of magic in it and it is off the ground. Literary is grounded. But these are simplistic definitions. Stories are subjective and the definition of it falls in nebulous boundaries. There I go again…nebulous and boundaries don’t go together!

Where can people learn more about your books?

The Arithmetic of breasts and other stories, is available on:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GCS3DD0
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/365715

You can visit my website my virtual residence too at: http://authorrochellepotkar.wix.com/rochelle-potkar Welcome!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Frank F. Fiore, Author of “The Oracle”

The OracleWelcome, Frank. What is your book about?

The ORACLE consists of a series of short stories tied together by means of a background story – a story within a story (similar to Ray Bradbury’s “Illustrated Man”). And like the Jeffrey Archer and Twilight Zone stories, the Oracle short stories are written with surprise endings.

The background story begins with a young musician on his way to Phoenix from Los Angles for a concert. He is given a car by his manager and shortly after entering Arizona it breaks down. Out in the middle of nowhere he decides to hitch a ride to the nearest town for help. While waiting for a ride, the weather turns inclement and he seeks refuge at a ranch house inhabited by an old and lonely couple. They invite him in and persuade him to stay for dinner.

After eating, they retire to the living room. After a while, the old woman offers to show their guest some of their three dimensional slides on their old-time stereoscope.

Being polite, the young man decides to endure the request. His hosts carefully remove a set of slides from a shiny metallic box from under the coffee table and place the first one in the stereoscope’s viewer. They instruct the young man to hold the stereoscope up to the living room lamp and focus it towards the viewer. When the viewer is focused and the light hits the slide, something amazing happens.

The still 3D image begins to move!

The first image he sees tells a tale that happens to be one of the short stories in the series. At the end of the first story, the young man turns to question his hosts on this wonderfully strange device. The couple just smile and offer him another slide. He asks again what the device is and where did it come from. The couple respond that the device is an ordinary stereoscope of the early 1900s that they purchased from a Sears catalog many years ago.

But the slides – ah yes, the slides. That’s another matter indeed.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

I came up with idea and the basic outline for THE ORACLE 40 years ago. After completing my 4th novel, I dusted off the outline and story summaries and decided to write the book of short stories.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Readers like to be surprised by a story. One that is unexpected and entertaining. If you know how the Twilight Zone TV show stories unfold, then the short stories in THE ORACLE will pique your interest.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I’m from Brooklyn, New York. A Brooklyn boy gets right to the point and in away that communicates quickly and efficiently. You would know this if you ever spend time around New Yorkers. So that’s how I write. Conversationally without long boring narratives. If you want a quick entertaining read, then the THE ORACLE fits that bill.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve just finished my 5th novel. It’s called MURRAN. I expect this to be my breakthrough novel because it is steeped in politically incorrect controversy. It is getting very good reviews from my beta readers.

MURRAN is the story of a young African-American boy named Trey coming of age in the 1980s, and his rite of passage to adulthood. Trey is a member of a ‘crew’ in Brooklyn and is enticed into helping a violent drug gang. He is eventually framed for murder and flees with his high school teacher to his Maasai village in Kenya. There, Trey learns what a true Black African and African culture is, goes through the Maasai warrior’s rite of passage, becomes a young shaman, and returns to America to confront the gang leader that framed him.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your work-in-progress?

Controversy. A politically incorrect version of Blacks and their culture in America.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

Many years ago, I started collecting ideas for my novels. I created file folders for each proposed story I would write. As I found any and all material that fit the story line, I would drop it into the assigned folder. This would include websites, books, news items, magazine articles, videos, etc. etc. This process has worked well for me in helping develop my stories.

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

I’ve completed 5 novels and currently doing research on a 6th novel. I have at least 3 more in the hopper.

Which is more important to your story, character or plot?

Plot. Plot. Plot. Without plot characters have nothing to do. Plot first then develop characters to drive the plot. And in the process, SHOW don’t TELL.

Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?

A fellow popular author colleague of mine. Write, write and write. Create a back list of books. If one takes off, readers will flock to your other books. The more books you have in the marketplace the better return on your writing time when your first book becomes popular. Then Tom Clancy – yeah, that Tom Clancy – told me to don’t suffer over a book. Complete and go on to the next one.

Have you written any other books?

I’ve written a dozen non-fiction books before turning to fiction. My fiction books include: CYBERKILL – a techno-thriller, The chronicle of Jeremy Nash – a 3 book action/adventure character series, THE ORACLE that I mentioned before, and MURRAN which is in the hands of beta renders now.

What do you like to read? What is your favorite genre?

I break a cardinal rule here on writing. I don’t read other author’s books. I haven’ read a book in 10 years. What I do is watch tons and tons of movies because I write my novels as movies. I’ve learned a lot about writing watching and dissecting movies – plotting, character development, pacing, etc.

What genre are your books?

Thrillers, Action/Adventures/ SyFy and Mainstream fiction. I’m told that I write in the vein of Michael Crichton because we both write in many different genres.

If you could have lunch with one person, real or fictitious, who would it be?

Robert Heinlein. If you read the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in his novel ‘Time Enough for Love’, you’ll see why.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Check out my author website at http://www.frankfiore.com and my blog at http://frankfiore.wordpress.com/